… Says participation could be effort in futility
BY PAUL EREWUBA
With less than six months to the Rio Olympics in Brazil, Team
Nigeria appears not ready to participate in the biggest sporting event in the world.
While some athletes are still going for qualifiers, others are yet to hit camp for proper training.
Some athletes recently paid for themselves to represent Nigeria at international championship.
For those who know, it takes nothing less than a decade to prepare and produce an Olympic champion.
However, the same cannot be said of Nigeria who had mastered what is now referred to as fire brigade approach to preparations in international competitions as the Olympics.
Many had thought that Nigeria’s embarrassing outing in the last edition of the games in 2012 in London would precipitate a change in attitude but it is the same old story.
Even as other countries had since intensified training for the games, there were enough reasons to say Team Nigeria was yet to put its house in order.
It would be recalled that Nigeria’s most glorious moment at the Olympics came in 1996 at the Atlanta Olympics in the USA, when Team Nigeria won two gold, one silver and three bronze medals.
Policewoman Chioma Ajunwa became the first Nigerian to win individual gold medal at the Olympics, when she won gold in the Long Jump event.
The Kanu Nwankwo inspired men’s won Nigeria’s second gold medal in football. Nigeria also won silver in the women’s 4x400meters relay team.
The three bronze medals were won by Mary Onyali-Omagbemi in Women’s 200m, Falilat Ogunkoya in Women’s 400m and Duncan Dokiwari in Men’s boxing in the Super Heavyweight class.
Since then Team Nigeria had not been able to re-enact the Atlanta 96 performance.
Speaking against this backdrop, former president of Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN), and incumbent President, Lagos Warriors Basketball Club, Mr. Dan Ngerem, stated that the era of athletes using Nigerian spirit to achieve success was over.
“If I were in the shoes of President Mohammadu Buhari there is no point wasting such big money ahead of the Olympics for the simply reason that we are not really prepared for this Olympics Games. We should earmark this money for the next Olympics”, he began.
“Billions of Naira is always earmarked for the commonwealth games and All African Games, but nothing is earmarked for athletes’ welfare and preparations.
This is disconnect that I really don’t know how to handle any more. I served in a Presidential advisory committee as far back as 2007 to put this right, but it has continued to bedevil the nation.
It is typically Nigerian.”
Ngerem averred that the problem of Nigeria sports is over dependent on government money,
“We are in the world of social media. Some athletes are traveling far away Asia to represent Nigeria. They compete with their own money outside there to represent Nigeria. Some of the athletes have spoken out. You know how it is here. When you speak out you are victimized, so some of them are keeping quiet. Most of the athletes are not supported.
The minister and others went to Rio recently to checkout where the athletes are going to stay.
“But I think it is a waste of resources. You can google on anything you want on Rio sitting in your office. And they made trip to Rio with…. I don’t know how many people, but the athletes are not getting money to go and qualify Nigeria for the same Olympics, so what is going on?
“Like I said, I use my word carefully. This is geared toward greed and gain. And it must stop particularly in a country like ours where there is economic down turn. And unfortunately this is going to be for a very long time.We must really do things the right way.
“Let me pose a question for you. Where is the marketing document for Nigeria’s Rio Rio Olympics participation? I, Dan Ngerem will like to support Nigeria. But have you seen any marketing document? Have you seen any in terms of the Nigeria Olympics Committee marketing our athletes? You have to have something, put it on the table so that people will sympathise with you and support you. But right now, they do not have.
“Team Nigeria is a brand what are we doing with it? Why must we wait for government money? But unfortunately there is no money and there is not going to be money for a long time.
“Now circumstance is going to force us to do things correct. We must reach out to corporate Nigeria and we must of necessity account for every kobo that we have collected. Government money is not accounted for. But, if it is private or coorporate money you must of necessity account for every kobo.”
But Ngerem believed Nigeria is capable of getting out of the woods, if only the right things are done and the old way of doing business as usual laid to rest.
“To get out of this ugly situation in Nigeria is very simple. We must have a policy framework. We are like an Army General going to war without a map, before you know it you are decimated. This is why Nigeria is always being humiliated at international competitions. We rely on the Nigerian spirit which to me is a characterization of mediocrity.
“We spend more money than all the Caribbean countries put together in a two-week Olympic programme, yet we don’t have results.
‘What we have to do now is get a policy framework so that you don’t have a minister A coming in and starting anywhere.
This is not good for our sport. If we do have a policy framework, anybody that works in there follows suit. If you have a policy that spells out the welfare of the athletes, anybody that comes in there will not mess up.
What we have now is somebody walks in there and because there are no laid down rules he does whatever he likes. Are we really serious?
Five months to the Olympics and we are restructuring the sports ministry and the NSC what’s that?
“If you ask me about Rio Olympics, I would say I’m hopeful but not optimistic. You don’t reap where you did not sow. We are going to rely on the Nigerian spirit which is a characterization of mediocrity. What is happening to us is politics confusion, politics somersault and lack of policy frame work. The solution is very simple but do we have the political will?”, Ngerem concluded.